Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Duff

Go To

The Duff (stylized as The DUFF) is a 2015 American teen comedy film directed by Ari Sandel and written by Josh A. Cagan, based on the novel of the same name by Kody Keplinger. The film stars Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca Santos, Skyler Samuels, Ken Jeong, and Allison Janney.

Bianca (Whitman) is an intelligent, suburban, white, American, self-respecting teenage girl that strives to conform to societal standards of beauty and romantic compatibility. Bianca is insulted and devastated when Wes (Amell), football player and on-again/off-again boyfriend of Madison (Thorne), says she's the titular DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) - but she soon realizes that Wes is right; the students in her high school are only interested in her as a way to get to her beautiful friends Jess (Samuels) and Casey (Santos). She takes her anger out on her friends and 'unfriends' them on social media and in person...


The novel is later followed up by LOL: Lying Out Loud.

The DUFF exhibits these tropes:

  • Academic Athlete: Wesley, in the novel. He has a GPA of 3.95 and is 3rd in the class, while keeping a bookcase with books by Henry Fielding, James Patterson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. This contrasts with how he is in the movie.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Redheaded Bianca and blonde Casey become brunettes in the film.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Madison. Her life seems to revolve around keeping the supposed "losers" down and getting herself a trophy boyfriend who would ensure her social status.
    • Averted with Bianca's friends Jess and Casey, who, despite being devastatingly attractive and largely popular, don't exhibit any bitchy traits.
  • An Aesop: The theme of the movie seems to be "Don't let labels define you."
  • Asian and Nerdy: Mr. Arthur is East Asian and revealed he was called an "Aurkel": Asian Urkel in high school.
  • Advertisement:
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Basically how Bianca and her friends are described in the beginning. Jess is "the kind one" and The Fashionista (beauty), Bianca is a geeky honor student (brains), Casey is "the tough one" and very athletic (brawn, though she's also considered a beauty).
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: This is Bianca's relationship with Wes at first, with tons of snark and insults tossed between them. As the movie progresses, however, the belligerence disappears, veering the two of them straight into Twice Shy territory.
  • Beta Bitch: Caitlin is the mean-spirited minion to Madison, the resident Alpha Bitch. She also serves as The Dragon to Madison and films Bianca twice to humiliate her.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Wesley in "LOL" where he picks up on something going wrong between his younger sister Amy and her friend Sonny, even consoling Sonny about kissing and making up.
  • Book-Ends: The opening monologue of the movie is exactly the first sentences from Bianca's final article, which is also her closing monologue.
  • Brainless Beauty: Wes is a downplayed version. He's a handsome, charming guy who has little talent for or interest in intellectual pursuits and he is a bit of an airhead in other ways. However he's far from cartoonishly stupid and he does have a much stronger grasp of the unwritten social rules of high school than the otherwise much brainier Bianca.
  • Brainy Brunette: Bianca in the movie has dark brown hair and is an honor student; Casey is dark-haired and she is a computer hacker.
  • Butt-Monkey: Bianca. She is always being ignored in favor of her much more popular best friends. At one point she's humiliated in front of everyone and becomes the school's resident laughing stock. She finally gets a date with her crush, Toby, but later finds out he was just using her in order to connect with her friends Jess and Casey, just like everyone else.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Wesley and Bianca. They were next door neighbours and grew up together, until Wes became a Dumb Jock which annoyed the hell out of Bianca. After Bianca got transformed from a shy DUFF to a bright beautiful girl, with Wes’ help nonetheless, the two end up together.
  • Cool Loser: Bianca is intelligent and good-looking — and the movie doesn't try to kid the audience she's not — and isn't even necessarily unpopular. She is just friends with two girls who are more popular than her, which makes her a loser by comparison.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Arthur. Though a tad eccentric, he's the only teacher who doesn't hate his students, lust after them, or overreact to every little thing. He's even cool enough to brush it off when Bianca tells him to eat a dick when she mistakes him for another student who was going to tease her.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The outtakes are presented on various screens, and (most of) the cast and crew have their Twitter handles accompanying their credits. The credits is also shown in the style of various social media websites and apps, including Vine, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bianca's wit is as sharp as a razor. One memorable example occurs when she invades the boy's locker room, and one of them (wearing nothing but briefs) asks "Whoa, Bianca, what the hell is this?" she replies, "Oh, well, it kinda looks like a penis, only smaller."
  • Double Standard: Taken to a subtle extreme: Bianca barges into the mens' locker room, calls some dude's dick small, and randomly punches Wes in the face, which leads to a happy romantic ending void of any reprimand.
  • Dumb Jock: Wes, whose football scholarship will be lost if he doesn't pass chemistry. He doesn't seem to have a very good grasp on any intellectual activity or even the English language, but is very competent in a field of popularity.
  • Evil Counterpart: Madison is this to both Jess and Casey. Like them, she's gorgeous and popular, but Jess and Casey are nice girls who deserve their popularity, while Madison is the epitome of the Alpha Bitch.
  • Film of the Book: It's a somewhat loose adaptation of the book by Kody Keplinger.
  • Fanservice: Wes provides quite a lot, but the entire sequence of Bianca walking through the boys' locker room is as well.
  • Fiery Redhead:
    • The sarcastic Bianca in the book notes herself as having wavy auburn hair.
    • Madison in the film is played by the strawberry blonde Bella Thorne and is very vicious.
  • A Friend in Need: Almost as if to prove that they truly consider Bianca a friend, despite her rejecting them, Jess and Casey hack into YouTube and delete Bianca's mannequin dance video.
  • Girls Like Musicians: Bianca has a huge crush on guitar-playing Toby.
  • Held Gaze: One happens between Wes and Bianca on the think rock which leads to a brief Big Damn Kiss.
  • High-School Dance: Homecoming. Very little importance is actually placed on it beyond Bianca having to write an article for the school paper about what it means to her. Although it's where the film's climax takes place, including Bianca finally getting Wes.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Bianaca's main "nerdy interest" is liking old, obscure movies, which is a far more interesting and common hobby than some of the more "unsafe" and stereotypical "geeky" hobbies despite being treated as though it's it's in the same ballpark.
  • Imagine Spot: Several, all by Bianca. Most of them contain sexual scenes, like her making out with Toby. Some of her many reactions to Toby revealing he doesn't have feelings for her: vomiting, crying, screaming.
  • Instant Humiliation Just Add Youtube: Caitlyn caught Bianca having her little dance and action on the mannequin pretending it was Toby and later attempt to flirt with a bunch of guys, filmed it on her phone, later edited it to match the beat of Anaconda by Nicki Minaj and #Selfie by The Chainsmokers and uploaded it to YouTube and gained a viral hit just to humiliate Bianca further. Those videos got taken off later as cyberbullying though.
  • Jerk Jock: Subverted. Wes appears to be this initially, being introduced as an obnoxious, dumb, immature football captain who disses Bianca for her DUFF status but it turns out to be a case of Brutal Honesty. He's actually a pretty nice guy and remains quite helpful and loyal to Bianca throughout the movie, giving her social advice on how to stop being a DUFF.
  • Lady Killer In Love: Wes was a notorious womanizer until he predictably falls for his childhood friend Bianca towards the end of the film.
  • Little Black Dress: Subverted. Bianca dressed in one to the party with intention to get the guy but exposed her to the concept of "DUFF" and get pissed off instead, and she (and her friends) fired up the sewing machine to mix and match the LBD with her favorite black/red plaid T-shirt to create the Homecoming dress that she really shines in.
  • Lovable Jock:
    • What Wes really is. Despite being introduced as a stereotypical football jock in his first scenes, he is actually one of the few people who try to help Bianca in the movie.
    • Casey may count as a female example, being a soccer player. She may be tough, but she's not mean.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: In the book, tall Casey reveals she always felt she was the Duff compared to the more petite Bianca, given that boys would want to take care of her.
  • Precision F-Strike: Bianca's mother (Janney) gets the movie's onlynote  F-word. It's both lampshaded and mocked. The movie already contains mild swearingnote , and Bianca even declares, "Let's do this shit!" but as soon as Dottie replies with "Fucking A," everyone looks at her in shock and she apologizes.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Wesley is a jock yet has a good handle on fashion and on how Bianca's bras aren't supportive nor flattering. He is the one that gives her fashion tips at the mall.
  • Shout-Out: The mean girls, Caitlin and Madison, seem to be named after Shelby's two friends from A Cinderella Story.
  • Spicy Latina: Casey Cordero is a feisty Latina hottie and tough girl. Sporty, very attractive, a clever hacker, and being described as a “fiery Latina” in-universe.
  • The Stinger: Some outtakes play during the credits.
  • Straw Loser:
    • Bianca and every "DUFF" by definition. Every group has a "Designated Ugly Fat Friend", a person who is less popular and more accessible compared to his better-looking friends.
    Wes: Every group of friends has one. The one who doesn't look as good, thus making their friends look better. The one who's approachable and easy to talk to, because no one's trying to get in their pants.
    • Jess in the book back when Bianca and Casey met her, she was hanging around a group of popular girls who treated her as a DUFF until Bianca and Casey both invited her to join them. Jess has since then blossomed.
  • Teens Are Short: Played straight with Bianca but subverted with many of the other high school characters. Both Jess and Casey, as well as the Alpha Bitch Madison, are obviously taller than Bianca. Note that the actress playing Madison, Bella Thorne, was 16 while filming this movie, meanwhile the actress playing Bianca, Mae Whitman, was almost ten years older.
  • Those Two Girls: Bianca's friends Jess and Casey. They always appear together.
  • Town Girls: With sweet-natured fashionista Jess as the femme, tough-as-nails hacker/athlete Casey as the butch, and smart honor student Bianca as the neither.
  • Trophy Wife:
    • Gender-inverted. Wes is this to Madison, she doesn't express any affection or respect to him and she keeps him around to for social status.
    • Inverted with "The Duff" concept: basically you hang around people or a person that makes you look better in comparison. The book has Wesley comment that Bianca is not bad-looking and asks if she ever considered any less attractive girlfriends. She tells him off and states that she values her friends for something other than their beauty and popularity.
  • Wild Teen Party: Held by Madison on a weekday.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: